Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"The Case Against Corporate Social Responsibility:" Wall Street Journal Special Report Examines the CSR Concept

The debate about whether companies have a "corporate social responsibility" (CSR) and if so what that means has been going on for at least a decade. To date, there has been no definitive answer. It is more likely to take the form of "it depends on the circumstances and facts."

The CSR concept has been widely adopted in Europe where consumers and governments have been quick to call companies to task for failing to serve broader interests than just those of shareholders. In March 2010 the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, made a commitment to "renew the EU strategy to promote Corporate Social Responsibility as a key element in ensuring long term employee and consumer trust." Click here to learn more about the Commission's position. However, in the U.S. the rate of acceptance has been somewhat more limited.

In any case, the case for and against CSR continues apace, and anyone involved in representing or working for businesses must be familiar with the concept and what various stakeholders think about it.

The Wall Street Journal has published (Aug. 23, 2010) a special section called "The Case Against Corporate Social Responsibility." The special section, produced in collaboration with the MITSloan Management Review, begins by saying:
"Can companies do well by doing good? Yes--sometimes. But the idea that
companies have a responsibility to act in the public interest and will
profit from doing so is fundamentally flawed."
There are obviously many reports about the value of CSR. But this one, because of its timeliness and the involvement of MITSloan Management Review, deserves a look by anyone interested in CSR.

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